Ethan Marcotte now blogs at Unstoppable Robot Ninja.

Weblog entry:

Flying car markup

Over the past week, there’s been quite a bit of sound and fury around semantic markup — you know, every web author’s favorite bogeyman. Matthew Thomas, Lachlan Cannon, Matt May, and James Craig went a few rounds last week over the once-stalwart <b> and <i> elements and their worth (or, if you’re not Mr. Thomas, the lack thereof).

Dan Cederholm — proprietor of the pimptastic SimpleQuiz — summed up my thoughts best, in his response to Andy Budd’s Semantic Coding:

Search engines, assistive software, devices that display heading, lists, etc. as you had intended — it’s for those reasons you mentioned that that I believe makes the effort of being semantic when possible, worth it.

As a web developer/designer/something, I consider myself a creature of habit first, a creature of requirement second. While the academic arguments are interesting, they’re not the ones I need — nor are they the ones I’m likely to heed. We’ve been shown that there are tangible benefits to the separation of style from content — many of which are an easy sell to our clients. Until then, discussions over the appropriate markup for vector spaces are going to be marginalized, relegated to the realm of the abstract. Maybe it’s unfortunate, but show us that Google prefers <i lang="fr"> to <span lang="fr">, and we’ll likely act accordingly — otherwise, to paraphrase Keith, we’ll stick with what we like, what we know, and/or what works.

While the separation of style from content is a good and important goal, being too academic in its pursuit isn’t good for anyone. Otherwise, the Semantic Web runs the risk of sounding like a solution for a problem that hasn’t been invented yet: a flying car that sounds quite nice, but we’ll have to wait another thirty years to drive the damn thing.


Hooray, technical difficulties.

There’s a WordPress issue that’s currently preventing old comments from displaying correctly. Sorry for the inconvenience, but hopefully we’ll be back online soon.